Cave In are the most almost of bands. Thanks to member turnover and internal strife, they almost never recorded a single song. If their debut almost turned them into metalcore’s great white hopes, then their third album, the enduring Antenna, should have made them millionaires. They had the major label deal; they had the huge choruses; they had the Foo Fighters support slot; they almost made it. Instead, it almost ended the band for good. Throughout their rocky history, though, the band always had each other. That is, until March of 2018.
That month, the members of Cave In had gathered at their rehearsal space in Boston to work on new material. It had been nearly seven years since their previous album, killer comeback effort White Silence, and they’d been writing and rehearsing methodically, if intermittently, to craft a worthy follow-up. After jamming all weekend, bassist, vocalist, and certified good dude Caleb Scofield got in his truck and drove home. It was the last time his bandmates would ever see him.
On March 28, 2018, Scofield was killed in a traffic accident. After collecting themselves (and collecting generous donations for Scofield’s family) Cave In decided to do what they’d always done: push forward. The end result is Final Transmission. This was almost released as a collection of demos, a cruelly cut short work-in-progress memento, but, finished by the band, mixed by Andrew Schneider, and mastered by James Plotkin, it’s now one of the best things they’ve ever done.
“All Illusion” is unmistakable Cave In, possessed with the same dense, muscular momentum the band have always maintained no matter what genre they’ve focused on. “Shake My Blood” positively soars despite lyrics inspired by pain and frustration, and “Strange Reflection” is a gnarly, shapeshifting effort that feels like it’s been carved from stone.
There’s power then, but there’s also purpose. From shimmering hooks to hard, heavy riffs, from space rock ambience to some of Steve Brodsky’s most emotional vocals, this album feels like a real distillation of Cave In to date. There’s a sense that, even before Scofield’s passing, Cave In were pulling together something of a best-of here.
For all the excellent ideas, though, Final Transmission can’t help but be a little haunted. The first voice on the record is Scofield’s, via a memo of an idea for a new song that he sent to his bandmates; the lyrics to “All Illusion” are pulled from his diaries, and his unmistakable bass tone thunders through the mix.
It sometimes feels like voyeurism. And the record is undeniably, understandably, raw in places. It sounds great, considering it’s all practice room demos, but there’s little doubt the band would’ve continued to work on these songs, to really pack with them with rocket fuel, maybe almost perfected them.
It’s not clear if the title here alludes to Scofield alone or his band altogether, but if this is truly a “Final Transmission,” then it’s a special conclusion to Cave In’s legacy and fitting tribute to a fallen friend. Almost nothing, this is everything.